Meet the Principal of the Zurich International School, Switzerland – John Switzer

Switzerland is consistently rated as one of the best countries in the world.   The scenery is second to none, the weather is truly four seasons (yet not too hot in the summer, nor too cold in the winter).  Public transportation is incredible. Taxes are very low for Europe, and the currency (Swiss Franc) is very strong.

  • Tell us about your school?

Zurich International School is a 5 campus school spread out along Lake Zurich.  1500 students representing 50 nationalities.  Our Upper School is a state of the art facility located in Adliswil.

  • What kind of accommodation is on offer to teachers?

Our HR team assists teachers in locating their accommodation.  Some prefer to live near the campus where they work, whereas others choose to live closer to the centre of Zurich.  There is no allowance for accommodation.

  • What are the major pros and majors cons for teachers thinking about a post ?

Generally speaking, Switzerland can be an expensive country, so some things like dining out will likely come with a sticker shock for many.

  • What do you get up to weekends?

There are an unlimited number of outdoor things to do on the weekend.  Most faculty take advantage of the outdoors.

  • What do you during the breaks? Anything a must see and do for the teachers? 

Being in the geographical center of Europe, travelling to other countries in the region is very easy.

  • Is it dangerous to walk the streets after dark ?

Absolutely not.

  • Tell us about the locals ?

Swiss tend to be conservative, private (yet very polite) and precise.  Personal space is important, and there is a shared understanding that public spaces are to be looked after, hence the clean and tidy look to everything.  Many Swiss speak 4 or more languages fluently.

  • Are there many international hospitals and tell us about the standard?

Healthcare in Switzerland is world class.

  • How do the teachers adapt to the local food and what’s your favourite food?

Again, dining out is very expensive, as there are not many choices in the medium range.  Portion size is adequate.

  • How much for a beer?

5 CHF (4 Euros)

  • What’s the nightlife like?

The city of Zurich has a very strong nightlife scene.  Less so in the neighboring towns/villages.

  • How do you get about#

Most faculties have cars.  Public transport in Zurich and throughout Switzerland is exceptional.

School life and your teaching career.

  • What can teachers expect from in your school ?

Exceptionally strong teaching staff.  Many stay in excess of 15-20 years, with many new hires coming with 10+ years of prior international teaching experience.  We review an enormous amount of applications each year for only a handful of vacancies.  We recruit at all of the major teacher recruiting fairs throughout the year (Bangkok, London, Boston).

  • What kind of challenges are there?

Language barrier can be a challenge in the community.

  • How do the salaries compare with internationals school globally?

Very competitive.

  • What kind of extracurricular activities do teachers get up to ?

Extremely wide variety.  An outdoor lifestyle.

  • Does your school have any wow factors that our readers? 

We are the school of choice in the Greater Zurich Area, and we continue to have an incredibly strong reputation in the global teaching community for our commitment to innovation and our mission:  Learn/Care/Challenge/Lead.  We are not-for-profit, and continue to invest heavily to provide a well-rounded education for our students.  Our curricular and extra-curricular programs are exceptional.

I assume a fair percentage of your students English is their second a language, how much more difficult does this make things when trying to get through curriculum.

Fifty percent of our students do not speak English at home, but very few (5%) would require EAL support.  That said, of course all teachers are in a sense language teachers and therefore can differentiate accordingly, but English is the language of the hallways.

  • What’s your thought on growth of international schools in  Switzerland ?

Quite stable in Switzerland.

  • Any tips for teachers out there looking to give up the classroom of the Uk and beyond and make it internationally?

If you are open to new challenges and have an opportunity to try out international education, give it a try.  I believe international schools are the best kept secret in education.  Most teachers who embark on an international career never look back.